Battle of Timisoara 1944

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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dragos03
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Battle of Timisoara 1944

Post by dragos03 » Sun Dec 23, 2007 6:28 am

Thought it would be interesting to post here information about a forgotten battle of WW2, the defense of the Western Romanian city of Timisoara in September 1944.

Some background information first. As the Red Army reached Romanian territory in 1944, all the combat-worthy Romanian units were sent to the Eastern front and the Soviet advance was stopped for a while. To guard the Western borders against a possible Hungarian attack, Marshall Antonescu deployed the so-called "training divisions". These had less than the manpower of a normal regiment, obsolete weapons, few heavy armament (some of these "divisions" had only a total of 2-3 artillery pieces) and were considered to have limited or no combat value. However, Antonescu thought that these units might be able to at least delay the enemy if needed.

When the Germans and Hungarians did attack in August-September 1944, these units performed way better than expected. With the support of a few regular units, the training divisions managed to delay or stop the enemy along the whole front, preventing them from reaching the Carpathian passes until the arrival of the bulk of the Romanian and Soviet forces.

These posts concern the defense of the city of Timisoara, the capital of the Western Romanian province of Banat, against German-Hungarian attacks in September 1944. Timisoara had a big strategic importance as a communications hub, and it's capture would have allowed the Axis to establish a strong defensive position along the Southern part of the Western Carpathians.

dragos03
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Post by dragos03 » Sun Dec 23, 2007 6:33 am

20 August 1944 - start of the Soviet offensive on the Romanian front, the front collapses and the Red Army advances on Bucharest

23 August - King Michael I arrests Marshall Antonescu and proclaims an armistice with the Soviets. The Russians mostly ignore the armistice and capture a large part of the Romanian field army. In the meantime, the Germans attack Bucharest and Romanian declares war on them. The covering forces on the Western borders prepare for the inevitable attack.

At Timisoara, the Romanian forces defending the city were a regiment of the 9th Cavalry Division and some 2nd and 3rd rate formations. Since he didn’t have enough troops to form a continuous front, the commander of the division (Major General David Popescu) divided his forces into three battlegroups, defending the North, West and South directions.

The Northern Detachment consisted of cadets from the NCO and gendarmes schools in Botosani and an infantry company formed from the 5th Battalion of Auto Mechanics, all under the command of Col. Constantin Botez.

The Central Detachment was the strongest. Under the command of Lt. Col. Ilie Bradateanu, it had the 17th Training Infantry Regiment, the 6th Mounted Artillery Regiment and a company of mechanics.

The Southern Detachment only had three improvised infantry companies from the men of the 5th Battalion of Auto Mechanics, commanded by Maj. Petrovici.

The central reserve consisted of the 13th Calarasi (cavalry) Regiment and the Timisoara garrison company.

To give these units some anti-tank capability, some light AA guns of the 15th AA Battalion were distributed to the three detachments.

After 23 August, the Romanian units allowed some of the German forces in the area to retreat over the border. Others were disarmed and captured after the German attack against Bucharest.

Here is a brief description of the military actions:

11 September – The 4th Recon Battalion from the 4th SS Division attacks the border posts South of Timisoara. The “Banloc” Border Guards company retreats to the villages of Peciul Nou and Ciacova and manages to resist, helped by the men of an army textile workshop that was deployed in the area.
The Recon battalion and other units from the 4th SS bypass the resistance and head to Timisoara, defeating the mechanics of the Southern Detachment, which retreats towards the centre. At the outskirts of the city, the Germans are counterattacked by a cavalry squadron from the central reserve, whose men were quickly redeployed using the trams of the public transport system. The cavalrymen destroy one tank and three tankettes and stop the enemy advance. While the Germans were regrouping for a second assault, they are hit by 12 Romanian dive bombers that manage to destroy several armoured vehicles. At this point, the Germans start to retreat in disorder to the South. A second counterattack of the cavalry squadron overruns some of their artillery pieces.
Gen. Popescu recalls the cavalry squadron and sends two newly-arrived conscript battalions from the 5th Training Infantry Regiment (Lt. Col. Alexandru Giuran) to follow the retreating enemy.

12 September – In the morning, the two conscript battalions surprise the German units in the villages of Sag and Parta, forcing them to retreat with great losses. The Germans retreat over the border and the “Banloc” Border Guards company is redeployed to its former positions. The Border Guards also capture some men of the 4th SS, which were scattered in the area after the fight with the 5th Training Inf. Regiment.

dragos03
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Post by dragos03 » Sun Dec 23, 2007 6:34 am

13-14 September – no major attacks on Timisoara but the defenders are now in a precarious position because to the North Arad and Aradul Nou were captured by Hungarians and to the South German units occupy Oravita and Sasca Montana. On 14 September, a small Hungarian attack from the North is repulsed by the cadets of the Northern Detachment.

15 September – The enemy attacks the city from three sides: from the West and Northwest by the SS Kampfgruppe Behrends (two mechanized battalions and a tank company), from the North by the Hungarians and from the South by elements of the 4th SS Polizei Division. However, the 4th SS didn’t finish its reorganization after its defeat on 11-12 September and reported that it was unable to attack in the morning as ordered. The attack from the South will only begin during the evening. The other two attacks are repulsed by the Central and Northern Detachments. Surprisingly, Kampfgruppe Behrends was unable to break through the positions of the 17th Training Infantry Regiment, reinforced by a cavalry squadron.

During the night, Gen. Popescu orders the Central and Northern detachments to retreat to positions closer to the city and replaces the Southern Detachment with the bulk of the13th Calarasi Regiment (commanded by Col. Ioan Enescu, some elements of this regiment were sent to other sectors) from the general reserve and a battalion of conscripts from the 5th Training Infantry Regiment.

16 September – The Southern positions are attacked by a powerful Kampfgruppe of the 4th SS Polizei, formed of the Recon battalion, two reinforced battalions and an artillery divizion. The Germans defeat the conscripts battalion and capture the villages of Sag and Parta, afterwards they attack the sector held by the Calarasi Regiment, which repulses all the attacks.
To the West of the city, the pressure of the SS Kampfgruppe Behrends forces the 17th Training Infantry Regiment to retreat towards Sanandrei. The only Romanian force that holds its position in this sector is a detachment from the 13th Calarasi Regiment, supported by an artillery battery from the 1st Training Infantry Regiment. This detachment, commanded by Capt. Victor Serbanescu, defends its position against several enemy attacks supported by armoured vehicles and tanks. The Germans are repulsed with heavy losses and are forced to abandon several tanks and vehicles disabled by the single field gun of the detachment, used in an anti-tank role.
In a critical moment of the battle, Capt. Serbanescu replaces the dead servant of a machinegun and continues to fire. He will be later awarded the Michael the Brave order with swords, 3rd Class, “For his bravery in the defense of Timisoara, when he was also deafened permanently by a shell. […] The officer and a sergeant jumped to the machineguns, opening fire and pinning the German infantry to the ground, showing great bravery and personal courage. […] Without his exceptional bravery, the enemy could have captured Timisoara that day.”
Later during the day, another German attack on Sanandrei (where the 17th Tr. Inf. Reg. had retreated) also fails.
In the Mehala sector, Northwest of the city, a battalion of conscripts from the 5th Training Inf. Regiment supported by a small Calarasi detachment and a company of mechanics hold their positions against the Hungarians.
During the evening, the first Soviet forces arrive in Timisoara but will not take part in combat initially.

17 September – The Germans start a powerful attack in the southern sector and manage to capture the suburbs of Chisoda and Ghioroc. After fierce fighting, the calarasi repulse the enemy and recapture the suburbs in the afternoon, with the help of a Soviet AT divizion. The commander of the 13th Calarasi Regiment, Col. Ioan Enescu, is killed in action, along with some other officers of the regiment (Maj. Titus Muresanu, Capt. Alexei Donici and others).
Some German formations from the southern sector try to envelop the city from the East. Some of them are stopped in the Bistra forest by the detachment of Col. Galgoti (which was formed from geandarme cadets). A small German tank detachment runs head on into a formation of Soviet heavy tanks (which was coming from the East) and is completely destroyed.
To the West of the city, the Romanian positions at Sanandrei, defended by the 17th Training Infantry Regiment, were attacked all day. The regiment repulses the attack of a Hungarian cavalry squadron early in the morning, followed by a heavy attack of the Behrends Kampfgruppe. Two other Hungarian attacks follow in the afternoon, with forces estimated at two battalions of infantry, supported by artillery, cavalry and cyclists. All the attacks are repulsed, the last one after a counterattack of the 1st battalion of the regiment.
Smaller Hungarian attacks in the Northern sector also fail.
At the end of the day, the German-Hungarian forces are ordered to stop all attacks and entrench on their current positions.

18 September – All the Romanian forces are withdrawn, as requested by the Soviet high command, and replaced with Russian units.

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